Consumer Reports, always looking out for consumers, has just published 5 valuable tips consumers can implement to go “green” without breaking the bank. In this time of uncertainty, buyers must be judicious in knowing what is truly an eco-friendly product.
We are seeing first hand what deregulation has done to our financial institutions and Consumer Reports reminds us in their newest publication, Shop Smart; “There are no federal regulations for items marketed as eco-friendly so some green products might not be as green as you think”.
The experts at ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, spent months sizing up fridges, running dishwashers, burning light bulbs, and punishing faucets to find the best green kitchen products.
- Get a water-saver faucet
· Why: A gleaming new faucet is an easy upgrade, but kitchen models can be water wasters compared with some bathroom faucets. Low-flow bathroom faucets with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new WaterSense label are about 30 percent more efficient.
· Easy Green Fix: Until the EPA comes up with criteria for low-flow kitchen faucets (they’re in the works), for $3 to $11 you can make most new or existing taps more efficient simply by attaching an aerator.
· One Possible Draw Back: With lower flow, it might take a bit longer to fill that pasta pot.
· What to Buy: Two Kohler models that aced ShopSmart’s most recent tests and can be ordered with custom-fit aerators for about $10 are the Vinnata K-690-BX , $550, and the Forte K-10433-VS, $250. Another green choice is a hands-free faucet, like the Danze Parma D421058, $480.
· Tip: When you find a faucet style you like, make sure it has a lifetime warranty that covers stains and water-wasting leaks.
- Switch to watt-stingy lighting
· Why: Modern kitchens can use up to 2,000 watts for lighting because standard incandescent, halogen, and xenon lights are energy hogs. All that excess heat from lights might prod you to turn down the A/C to cool things off.
· Easy Green Fix: Switch to cool-burning compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in overhead fixtures, and also consider adding some LED or fluorescent undercabinet task lighting. This easy fix costs about $200 for five fluorescent fixtures.
· One Possible Draw Back: Some—but not all—CFLs and LEDs cast a bluish or other funky-color light. Before you buy, ask if you can return the fixture if you don’t like the way the light looks with your décor.
· What to Buy: Strips are the most common type of task lighting, round “puck” lights are best for casting pools of light onto a counter and linear lights are best if you need more versatile fixtures. Both round “puck” lights and linear lights are available with LEDs.
· Tip: If your cabinets don’t have a built-in valence to hide task lighting, either add one or choose a fixture with a sleek housing that’s not as noticeable.
- Put in a ceiling fan
· Why: Kitchens get hot, and if you use an air conditioner to cool things off, it will gobble up a lot of energy and money.
· Easy Green Fix: A ceiling fan in the kitchen will use only a fraction of the electricity that an A/C would.
· What to Buy: ShopSmart tested models from Hampton Bay, Harbor Breeze, and Hunter, and most performed pretty well in air-movement tests. So rather than shop for a particular brand, go for a style you like and remember that lighting affects energy use.
· Tip: You might be able to find CFLs designed for ceiling fans that can replace the original bulbs and save energy.
- Renovate with recycled stuff
· Why: A new countertop or cabinet style can change the whole look of your kitchen, but manufacturing them keeps power plants polluting the air and some green goods aren’t as green as they might seem.
· Easy Green Fix: Before you buy new, see if you can find secondhand products.
· What to Buy: Salvage shops are stocked with new or gently used stone countertops, hardwood flooring, decorative lumber, and kitchen cabinets, so they’re a great place to look for bargains. Habitat for Humanity sells used and surplus building materials at outlets called ReStores.
· Tip: If you must have new, look for greener cabinets and other products made from sustainable lumber and materials.
- Trade in the biggest energy hogs
· Why: The appliances in your kitchen that take the most energy to operate are refrigerators and dishwashers. The older these appliances are, the less energy efficient they are and the more costly they are to run.
· Easy Green Fix: It usually doesn’t pay to replace working appliances with new ones. But when you do update, look for models that use less energy and are quieter. Though energy efficient models can cost more, you’ll recoup the money as your utility bills shrink.
· What to Buy: ShopSmart found that the Amana AFD 2535DE [W], $1,550, saved up to $72 a year in annual operating costs compared to a 15-year-old fridge and the Bosch SHE33MO UC, $540, saved up to $51 a year compared to a 7-year-old dishwasher.
· Tip: You don’t have to ditch the clunkers all at once. Start with the least efficient ones. It pays to replace them when repairs would cost more than half the price of a new appliance.
A side note on Tip # 2, “one possible drawback to lighting”.
My favorite lighting tip is changing recessed can lights to LED. Times are changing, and here is an example where regulation works in our favor. It used to be there was no standard way to judge a good LED from a bad one. Recently, in an effort to standardized the lighting industry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed test methods that manufacturers should use to standardize color specifications of LED lamps and LED light fixtures. With this new standard manufacturers will use, consumers will be able to compare total light output, energy consumption, chromaticity and color quality. For more information on lighting on Lighting standards start with the article form Light Search.com: http://www.lightsearch.com/lightnow/2008/0708/0708_nist.htm